I have been a sucker for Steel Bikes. The vintage looks, plush ride feel or just a subterfuge for the lower speeds all play a part in my choice, not sure of the order though. This preference was however based on my exposure to years of riding Steel, Aluminum & Carbon frames alone. Titanium was a missing link in this analysis. Our recent build of a bike around the Van Nicholas Skeiron Titanium frame gave me an opportunity to fill up this void.
This is an initial analysis done based on the following rides
Ride 1 - 50km hill reps with a 950m elevation gain - Strava Ride Link
Ride 2 - 117km road ride with about 600m elevation gain - Strava Ride Link
In theory Titanium frames are responsive, stiff & resistant to corrosion (the reason why most Ti frames are polished / brushed and not painted). Unfortunately, I knew this before riding the bike and it did influence my analysis. But here are some things which are undeniable:
- The frame is lighter than steel
- It is extremely responsive and I felt that all the power was delivered in the forward propulsion. Even better than some of the entry level carbon bikes
- Ride feel was extremely plush - comparable to steel and probably better than some of the carbon frames
- The bike is well planted and gives immense confidence in cornering and descending
- The looks - the brushed frame with black carbon forks & rims is elegant without having to apply a B&W filter
Other than the handling most of the others were on expected lines of a Titanium frame. I was riding a M frame which is the right size on paper. However I could have gone lower at the front end to get more aerodynamic. I believe a S frame may also work for me.
During the hill reps I was searching for a term to describe the smoothness of the crank rotation and just as I hit the right term - “makhan”, Sampath killed the joy and mentioned that it was probably more attributable to the ceramic BB. This was also my longest ride on tubeless wheel setup & hydraulic disc brakes.
The final ride experience is influenced by many factors, not just the frame. I will have to add a few of them that contributed.
Other Factors influencing comfort are
i) The carbon fork
ii) Combination of wider inner diameter rim & tubeless tyre setup with 60PSI
iii) Geometry of frame
Other Factors influencing responsiveness are
i) Ceramic PF BB
I listed these out above as it was difficult for me to attribute which aspect was contributing more or less to the comfort and responsiveness. It is also a great takeaway to upgrade your existing gig to improve these aspects.
Lot of information out there and if you are still trying to answer the question - “is this one I should look for?”. The bike is perfect if:
- You enjoy long miles with no power loss yet super smooth ride quality
- You plan to do fast and adventurous bike-packing trips
- You want to upgrade your aluminium roadie for an enhanced ride quality but don't want to worry much about the fragility of carbon bike
A bit about the brand Van Nicholas - its a dutch company specializing in making Ti frames & components. They make - Road, Touring, MTB & Adventure frames. They claim boldly that
Bike Build Setup:
|Frame||Van Nicholas Skeiron M size|
|Fork||Van Nicholas SLR (Super Lite Race) Carbon|
|Wheels||Mavic Kysrium S D CL|
|Tyres||Pirelli Cinturato Velo 700*28c Tubeless|
|Groupset||Shimano 105 Hydraulic Disc Brakes|
|Bottom Bracket||Tripeak BB86 PF Ceramic|
|Handlebar||Shimano Pro LT Compact L|
|Bartape||Burgh Stealth Silk|
|Seatpost||Controltech SL Al Alloy|
|Saddle||Selle Italia Novus Boost Evo Superflow|
Bike build video
About the reviewer - Gokul Krishna used to go to school on his bicycle. After a brief fascination with motorcycles, he restarted cycling in 2008. He loves steel, fixed gear bikes and was instrumental in our Astr bikes production. At present he rides a custom steel frame, which he helped design - a fast aggressive road bike, shod with heavy wheels and 32c tyres. He also rides a Chapter 2 Tere setup with SRAM Red eTap and Token Carbon wheels if he can take it from the racing team. He is a “Association of British Cycling Coaches” certified coach having trained multiple athletes to state championships & endurance riders to complete Alpi 4000, LEL, Northcape 4000 etc. He enjoys running as well and analyzes running form.